Inside the All-Inclusive Resort: a Report

Last weekend I went on my first press trip ever, to Mazatlan, Mexico . It was quite a learning experience! Basically, the Mexican Tourism Bureau paid for me to fly down, stay at a fancy schmancy resort, eat amazing food and do fun stuff like zip lining. Their goal of course is to illustrate what a great vacation destination Mexico, and Mazatlan specifically, are, and they more than convinced me!

When I first saw the website for Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay Resort, my eyes just about shot out of my head. This place was NICE. Like, really, really nice. Nicer than anywhere I’d ever be able to afford on my own dime.

So exciting! But I also felt a bit guilty. Sure it was a nice treat to be able to stay somewhere luxurious for a change, but I’m not exactly a luxury travel blogger. How was I going to get a true picture of Mazatlan when I was so removed from my normal habits? I decided I would look at it as a social experiment of sorts. After all, many people absolutely love visiting all-inclusive resorts- what are these places all about anyways?

If this place is any indication, all-inclusive resorts are about palm trees, rooms so spread out that they have to be reached via golf carts and lots of swimming pools jutting out into the perfect ocean. To my relief it wasn’t about a bunch of rich Americans being waited on hand-and-foot by locals; most of the other guests were mexican families, with a few foreign couples and groups thrown in for good measure.


Essentially though, all-inclusive resorts are about convenience, luxury and most important of all: food. Lots and lots of food.

When Mike and I sat down for lunch, half an hour after arrival, a light went on in my head. You mean I can order anything I want? Anything? And it’s all paid for? Bring on the feast of ceviche, guacamole and steak tacos! And keep those margaritas coming! This set the tone for the rest of the weekend, where the game was Try to Digest Your Food as Fast As Possible So You Can Go Pig Out Some More.

Of course there are other things to do too… like go to the bar, where the drinks are ALSO all-inclusive. To prevent loathsome sitting inside drunk all day there is the glorious, greatest invention of all-resort time, the swim up bar. Happy Hour at the adults only pool bar became a mandatory part of the day.

We didn’t spend all of our time at the resort- our hosts had arranged all sorts of tours, activities and restaurant excursions to keep us busy, but I suspect that most visitors to Pueblo Bonita spend their days enjoying the pools, the spa, the beautiful views and the restaurants. It must be utterly relaxing but, I couldn’t help thinking, a bit dull.

While the resort was a totally great place to do nothing… there’s also really not much to do. Downtown was a 30 minute taxi ride away, and there’s basically nothing in the immediate vicinity. Minus all the Mexican people inside the resort there wasn’t a whole lot to indicate we were in Mexico and not the Caribbean or Florida or even Thailand. It was very clean, very safe and very easy- aka very not my style.

Of course this is only a drawback if you are me. Or anyone like me who likes a bit more culture or adventure in their vacation. I could probably handle a weekend of lazing around drinking margaritas, but a whole week? Not to mention that for the price of a week at Pueblo Bonita I could probably bum around Mexico for a month.

So no, I don’t see a whole lot of all-inclusive in my future (at least not unless someone else is footing the bill). I can totally see why people enjoy them though. If you want a week away from it all, a chance to worry about absolutely nothing and just relax, than it’s totally a valid choice. Just maybe not my first choice.

Although I’m pretty sure I’ll always have a thing for swim up bars…

Disclosure: My trip to Mazatlan was sponsored by the Mexican Tourism Board, however all opinions are my own.

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15 thoughts on “Inside the All-Inclusive Resort: a Report”

  1. My wife and I are retired with a very limited retirement plan…we did not go anywhere for years since we cannot afford it…please let me know if we can have a free all inclusive anywhere on Mexico or anywhere…I am 70 y/o and I would like to make my wife happy but I can’t because of our financial situation…we are married for 43 years and I am blessed to have her…
    I was a travel agent and I worked with TWA for 21 years…
    If you can do something, I’ll be too much obliged….

  2. I randomly came across your website and got really excited when you said Pueblo Bonito! I went on a cruise my freshman year of highschool down to mexico and when me, my friend and her parents stopped in mazatlan we came here for the day! Her parents did a timeshare tour and we just relaxed in the pool at the swim up bar and had a club sandwich and a can of coke! I didn’t get a chance to go inside but the pool was amazing and we had a great time!

    I stayed at an all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic not too long ago and there was plenty to do around the resort and a lot of excursions you could go on. I think all-inclusives are a hit or miss depending on the location and type of services they offer. I was never bored on my vacation ( the entertainment staff was amazing) and definitely loved the free drinks and food!

  3. I came to pretty much the same conclusions after my stay at a Mexican all-inclusive resort. It gorgeous and the customer service was spectacular, but it was just too remote and there wasn’t enough to do on site to keep me occupied. I was going stir-crazy by day 4. (And yeah, I ate like a pig.) It truly is the kind of vacation for people who want to “get away from it all” and pamper themselves and do nothing. (And certainly a lot of busy people need that kind of vacation, including me, probably, even though I know I’ll never be able to slow down long enough to do it!).

  4. Different strokes for different folks, right? The all-inclusive resort thing isn’t really my cup of tea, either, but I can totally understand the appeal they have to others. I think resorts (and cruises, to some extent) are the definition of “easy.” And you know what? Sometimes we all need a little easy in our lives.

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